We are familiar with the biblical story of Moses – given into the safe keeping of the pharaoh's daughter to save his life – but this is not quite that story. A woman on the run gives up her baby to the daughter of a scrapyard owner. Poor but caring, the girl and her father Pharaoh take the baby in and make a new family, in this D/deaf-accessible two-woman show.
Sirens blare and blue lights flash, and a heavily pregnant woman squeezes through a hole in the fence into Pharaoh & Daughter scrap yard. As she hides, we see the pair going about their daily lives – dressing, cooking, working and making do. But when the day is done, the daughter gets out her precious teddy and cares for it as if it were her child. Into this care the mother leaves her baby – taking the teddy as a reminder, and hoping one day to return.
From the perfect timing of the junkyard work, to the well-choreographed dressing mishaps, the physical comedy in this piece is spot on. The two actresses are remarkably expressive, and while there’s only one spoken comment, nothing feels like it’s missing. As befits a show designed with D/deaf audiences in mind, the use of lighting to mirror sound effects is cleverly done, with the sirens reflected in the blue light and the baby mirrored in volume by dimmable lanterns. A few of the parenting-book jokes rely on reading the titles to work, but otherwise this piece is also independent of language.
Ironically though, as a hearing audience member, I found some of the music very loud and repetitive – particularly that which accompanies the days of junkyard work. And it seemed a little strange to go from laughing at some of the pair's more disgusting habits (eating pests and particularly filing nails into the tea), to being moved by how caring and sweet they were with the baby. The first part of the show is focused on laughing at the pair in their daily lives, and there is a sharp change to the funny-but-poignant scenes of caring for the little one. The juxtaposition isn’t entirely effective: while it to a certain extent does make you think, the abruptness of the change hinders the flow.
Still, while there are plenty of laughs, there are also some very touching scenes. There is also food for thought about how poorer people are judged harshly for just surviving, and about the variety of families that exist in our society. I’d have liked to see these themes explored a little further.
Overall, this piece is a well-performed and touching tale very loosely based on a classic story. It succeeds in being accessible, understandable, moving and very funny. While the story was a little disjointed and would merit further development, it is still a very enjoyable show.